Burgundy, Champagne, Paris, Upper Loire,
Up to 8 guests
Charters and Cabin cruises
Wheel Chair accessible
Barging in France - Alsace-Lorraine - Strasbourg Cathedral
Strasbourg Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg and Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg, is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture.
Towering above the city of Strasbourg, Notre Dame Cathedral is an icon of Gothic architecture and a collaboration of French and German culture. Built over several centuries and combining both the Romanesque and Gothic styles, its pink sandstone walls and circular Rose Window have influenced architecture across the continent of Europe.
About Strasbourg Cathedral
Construction on Strasbourg's Notre Dame Cathedral dates to 1015, though the crypt and footprint are the only remaining part of the building from this time. Work on the current cathedral began in the late 1100s and took over three centuries to complete. Lack of funding was the reason building was taking so long and in 1253, the bishop had to pare back on personal extravagances to finance the completion of the nave.
Erwin von Steinbach redesigned the cathedral in the 1260s and his proposals detailed extravagant architectural features and unique decorations. Strasbourg was then under German rule, and the cathedral was to be the most modern building in the Holy Roman Empire. The Cathedral of Notre Dame in Strasbourg was daring in its application of gothic style and, unlike other cathedrals in Germany, did not adopt the traditional architectural features of the region.
The next two centuries saw construction slowly completed with a few amendments to the original plans. In 1439, the bell tower was the last part of Strasbourg cathedral to be finished and they finally erected its spire. Reaching 142m tall, Strasbourg cathedral is still the highest medieval structure in Europe. Visitors can enjoy views from a 66m high platform in the tower but should be prepared to climb the 332 steps to reach it.
Key Features of Strasbourg's Gothic Cathedral
Strasbourg Cathedral is an excellent example of gothic architecture, though the building also has Romanesque features dating back to before 1225 when there was a change of craftsmen. With its spire soaring 142m above the city, Our Lady of Strasbourg Cathedral was the highest building in the West until the nineteenth century.
The cathedral is laid out in the traditional cross-shape of Christian churches, with a long nave at its entrance. Built in the Romanesque style, the chancel at the front of the cathedral is the oldest visible part and conceals an 11th century crypt below. Many of the stunning stained-glass windows depict biblical scenes and date from the 12th and 14th centuries.
The Passion of Christ was the inspiration for the central portal's decorations on the façade, and statues of prophets from the Old Testament richly adorn this section. Also at the front of the cathedral is the Rose Window, measuring 15 meters in diameter. Featuring ears of wheat, it is completely unique to Strasbourg Cathedral and represents the city's commercial power in the Middle Ages.
Hundreds of sculptures line the outside of the cathedral. They were designed to silhouette the sky, making use of light and shadow throughout the day. The color of the sandstone also changes relative to the light illuminating it. The cathedral's walls glow pink or brown according to the time of day, unfortunately though, pollution has given the sandstone a gray tinge.
Other noteworthy features of Strasbourg Cathedral are the pipe organ and the magnificent clock.
The grand pipe organ, located high on the wall of the north side of the nave, is recorded as existing in 1260. It's been rebuilt many times: 1298, 1324-1327, 1384, 1430, 1489, and finally by André Silbermann in 1716. It was placed in its present position in 1327. The ornate and colorful decoration of pinnacle, spires, and sculpture, include a moving figure of Samson opening the jaws of a lion, a trumpet player carrying a banner, and a pretzel vendor. The Silbermann organ had three keyboards, thirty-nine effects, and 2,242 pipes. It was electrified around 1807, and was restored and modified several more times, most recently in 1975-81, giving it the current 47 effects. In addition to the grand organ in nave, the cathedral has two smaller organs.
The Astronomical Clock, built by sculptors, painters, technicians, mathematicians and Swiss watchmakers, is a marvel of technology that still has a working mechanism inside dating to 1842. At different hours of the day a host of mechanical figures, including Angels, Death, and the Apostles, are sent out on parade.
Strasbourg Cathedral - A Protestant Place of Worship
Built as a Catholic place of worship, Strasbourg Cathedral changed alliance during the reformation. In the 1500s, Martin Luther's writings spread throughout Germany, with Strasbourg and the Cathedral of Notre Dame becoming a protestant stronghold. In 1518, Luther's theses were posted on the doors of the cathedral and reformist ideas surged around the town, aided by the high proportion of print houses.
By 1524, the Holy Roman Empire had declared Strasbourg a "Free City". The Habsburg ruler, Charles V, was less than impressed and sought to return the city to Catholicism. Strasbourg and its cathedral remained protestant for over a century, eventually being reinstated as Catholic in 1681 by the French King, Louis XIV, after the Wars of Religion.
Gothic Revival in the 1800s
Strasbourg's cathedral had fallen out of style by the late eighteenth century, but after a German poet and playwright visited the city, interest was revived. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was so taken by the cathedral that it inspired him to write an essay titled "On German Architecture", describing Strasbourg's Cathedral of Notre Dame as a "sublimely towering, wide-spreading tree of God". He was fascinated by the conflicting identity of the cathedral, which had been uniquely defined by a collision of cultural influences from both France and Germany.
Goethe's work led to a Gothic resurgence in nineteenth-century France. Politician Victor Hugo romantically wrote that Strasbourg Cathedral was "a skillful combination of monumental size and delicateness". Incredibly, the sudden renewal of interest in Strasbourg's Gothic architecture influenced the redesign of the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris.
Conflict at Strasbourg Cathedral
During the French Revolution, the Gallery of Apostles at the top of the south façade had over 230 statues destroyed. A local official saved 67 other statues from the same doom by hiding them from republicans.
When the Franco-Prussian wars struck in 1870, Strasbourg Cathedral came under siege again. Fire destroyed the nave and choir stalls during the conflict. Disaster struck a third time during the First World War when all the cathedral's bells were removed. Later, in World War Two, German forces absconded with the medieval stained-glass windows. Thankfully, in 1945, Allied forces recovered these priceless artefacts from a German salt mine, and they swiftly returned them to the Notre Dame Cathedral in Strasbourg.
UNESCO World Heritage Listed Landmark
Strasbourg Cathedral was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1988. Its designation is linked to the historic center of Strasbourg, built around the cathedral in splendid Gothic style during the German Administration of 1871-1918. The resulting urban space surrounding the cathedral is individual to Strasbourg and sees its buildings blending into pastoral views of landscapes, rivers and canals.
Visit Strasbourg Cathedral on a Luxury Barge Cruise
We represent two French hotel barges (La Nouvelle Etoile and Panache) that will take you on a journey through the meandering canals of the Alsace region of France. These waterways flow through steep-sided forested valleys, canal-side villages of half-timbered houses, and feature the amazing Arzviller boat lift which carries the barge sideways 450 feet up the hillside, and several tunnels. One of the highlights is a trip to the stunning city of Strasbourg, where guests will visit the famous Strasbourg Cathedral.
Burgundy, Champagne, Paris, Upper Loire,
Champagne and Alsace-Lorraine
Up to 12 guests
Charters and Cabin cruises
Family (Champagne, Alsace)
Christmas Market (Alsace)